From the legal point of view, Kazakhstan is not ready for construction of an atomic power station (APS).
1. Environmental policy is still not developed in Kazakhstan. There is not an effective policy for energy efficiency, nor a program for alternative energy development, nor economic incentives for development and implementation of the latest technologies. The measures undertaken by the government target to solve only the most urgent issues.
Right on a favorable environment is not even mentioned in the Constitution of the country. Article 26 of the expired Constitution of 1993 said: “Citizen of the Republic of Kazakhstan has a right on a healthy and favorable for life natural environment.” But this statement was not included in the current Constitution of 1995. In the latter, it is only said that “the government sets itself a goal to protect the environment favorable to life and health of a human” (article 31). Not guarantees, but “sets a goal”, which does not imply acknowledgement of the right on favorable environment.
The Aarhus Convention indicates, “that every person has the right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being” and “that adequate protection of the environment is essential to human well-being and to the enjoyment of basic human rights, including the right to life itself.” Despite of the fact that the Convention was ratified by Kazakhstan, the country ignores its requirements, which was acknowledged for the third time in the decision of the Forth Meeting of the Parties of the Aarhus Convention in July 2011.
2. Lack of environmental policy reflects on all aspects of life, and first of all, on the quality of the legislation.
Degradation of the environmental legislation continues. Thousands of amendments which are introduced every year make it non-functional which was noted back in 2001 by the Constitutional Council1. More and more contradictions appear in the legislation.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection has to acknowledge this fact. Authors of the Second National Report on Compliance with the Aarhus Convention indicate that the legislation contains a large amount of mistakes and inaccuracies. But they present it as a favorable aspect for the public. They state that “the gaps and contradictions in the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan discovered during preparation of the National Report may serve as a good basis for public participation in the law-making process, in accordance with the article 8 of the Aarhus Convention.”2
On June 8, 2011, at the plenary session of the majilis of the Parliament of the RK, the Minister of Environmental Protection of Kazakhstan, Nurgali Ashim, stated: “For the last five years, despite of numerous gross violations of the environmental legislation, none of the responsible persons were made criminally liable for their actions. Inaccuracy of the legislation allows the criminals to avoid the punishment.”3
3. Bad quality of the legislation is aggravated by incompliance of the laws and neglect of the international agreements by the state authorities and private corporations.
For example, in 2002, in violation of the law, a high voltage power line (110kV) was built in the micro-district Gorniy Gigant, Almaty. In 2008, despite of violation of the law, a hydro-power station Issyk was built on the territory of the Ile-Alatau national park. In 2009, thanks to public intervention, it became possible to alter a project of construction of a high-voltage power line (220kV) passing through the territories of two national parks and to approve a project which does not violate the parks’ territorial integrity. From the early 2011, a high-voltage power line (110kV) is being built in the city of Pavlodar with violations of the law.
All the documents needed for construction of the facilities described above were approved by the state authorities with violations of the current legislation.
Why does it happen? Because it is profitable and safe to violate the law!
4. As a result of a lack of environmental policy, poor quality legislation, incompliance of the laws and corruption, the state authorities lose their ability to control environmental situation.
This is confirmed by numerous facts of environmental law violations, failure to execute court decisions, failure to comply with the international agreements.
Corruption affected the state authorities so much that they lose the ability to maintain their functions. In the report of the U.S. Department of State (2010) about the situation with human rights in Kazakhstan it is said: “The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively… Corruption was widespread in the executive branch, various law enforcement agencies, local government administrations, the education system, and the judiciary.”4
In the report “Avenues for Improved Response to Environmental Offences in Kazakhstan,” published by the Organization for Economic Collaboration and Development (OECD) in 2009, it is stated: “…Poorly orchestrated decentralisation creates the danger of institutional over-fragmentation and inconsistency, as well as raises concerns over the capacity of sub-national bodies to undertake roles given to them.”5
In these conditions, the state authorities cannot control construction of an APS!
So, who gets the most benefits from the construction of the APS? May be those who made Kazakhstan the world’s number one extractor of uranium? Or those who wish again, as in 2000, to turn Kazakhstan into a nuclear dumpster?
What can be expected from the construction of the APS? Occurring threats of accidents at the APS, environmental pollution by radioactive waste, increase in the sickness rate of the population, gross violations of the human rights.
Do we need such a “bright” future?
1. This was indicated in the Message of the Constitutional Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan “About the current state of the constitutional legality in the republic” dated on March 24, 2001: “… The current legislation does not always develop systematically, the link between its different sectors is violated, stability of the laws is not guaranteed. Many problems related to the quality of the laws have been accumulated: contradiction of the norms, unjustified frequent introduction of changes, adoption of secondary, not the most urgent laws, legal procrastination, faults in the juridical technique.”
2. Second National Report on Compliance with the Aarhus Convention. – Ministry of Environmental Protection, 2011, p.3.
4. 2010 Human Rights Report: Kazakhstan, U.S. Department of State, April 8, 2011, p.25; http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/sca/154481.htm.
5. Avenues for Improved Response to Environmental Offences in Kazakhstan. – OECD, 2009, p.20, http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/2/20/42072582.pdf.